Editor's note: If you've got a new baby, chances are, you've got a constant struggle with time management. We asked an expert, parent consultant and author Beth Herrild, for the tips and tricks new moms need to help keep life under control.
It was a beautiful time when everything else stopped - like I was wrapped in a soft cocoon and nothing else mattered except my baby and my body," says Lou Ann, thinking wistfully about when she was a new mom. "For once, I felt kind of off the hook for the daily activities of life."
Is time management for new moms an oxymoron? The single most powerful thing you can do is to make a conscious shift. Let go of some things. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a day.
Planning is more important than ever. You are in the middle of a huge transition from a life of some control to one where you are at the beck and call of a wonderful (but often fickle) little being. As the baby is adjusting to life outside the womb, you are metamorphosing into a mommy.
Chelsea and Keith, parents of 9-month-old Oliver, agreed to try to accomplish just one task per day other than baby care and self-care. In the very beginning, taking a shower may be a big accomplishment. Susan MacPherson-Krutsky, of Susan's Doula Care, says, "If you can't just focus on yourself and your baby, you will pay the price in time management, later." In the early weeks of life, research indicates that the quicker you respond and sooth your baby, the more settled and self-soothing she will be later on.
In terms of your body, remember those airline instructions: Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. Friends and relatives will advise you to sleep when the baby sleeps - do. As Heidi Koss-Nobel, a certified mental health counselor, says, "You cannot give from an empty cup." If you become spent and exhausted, it will affect your ability to get things done later. Plan one-handed meals: wraps, crudités, small sandwiches or chicken legs. When opening gifts, ask for amnesty with the thank-you notes. If people offer to help, say yes! Keep a written chore list. If you have a list of bite-size tasks, people will feel good about helping you and you won't stammer something useless when asked. Folding a load of laundry and restocking the diaper bag are simple ways for friends and family to lend a hand.
What you can't let go of, think about simplifying. Challenge the ways you've always done things. Ask yourself if there could be an easier way. Could you eat an apple with dinner instead of making a fruit salad? When home from the hospital, change your voicemail greeting so that it serves also to deliver information. "It's a girl, Ashley, 7 pounds, 6 ounces, blue eyes. Mom and baby are doing great, but we're both sleepy. Leave a message and we'll get back to you when we have the energy."
If you're making a meatloaf or lasagna, make two - label and freeze one. If you're chopping a vegetable, chop two. The freezer is your friend, and so are Sharpies.
Instead of using the baby bathtub, try bathing or showering with your baby. It streamlines the process and turns a potentially stressful time into an intimate one. My husband loved holding our babies close in the shower, bonding under the cascading warm water.
Break tasks down into pieces that can be done in 20 minutes. Maybe on Monday you straighten up your desk instead of the entire kitchen. Every 15 to 30 minutes, babies need a change of scenery, otherwise they become cranky. MacPherson-Krutsky suggests setting up stations around your house: maybe a bouncy seat in the kitchen, a blanket and baby gym in the living room, and a swing in your bedroom.
The marketplace is full of fancy baby gear. Koss-Nobel says a good-quality baby carrier is essential. The old-fashioned slings can take you from preemie to toddler, front or back, and you can even nurse in them. I love the BabyBjörn; although you can't nurse in it, it offers lots of stability. I vacuumed in it, cooked and went for walks. Whichever you choose, carriers allow you to hold your baby close with no hands.
Drive through and curbside services can be a lifesaver. They enable you to obtain goods and services without taking the baby out of the car. Bartell Drugs and Walgreens have some drive-through pharmacies. Many restaurants have "curbside" service, bringing your food to your car. Even if curbside isn't advertised, businesses will often accommodate customers. I once asked my accountant to bring our taxes to the parking lot and she happily did so.
Ordering groceries online from places like AmazonFresh, Spud.com and Safeway.com is helpful because they deliver and you can store a standard weekly list. AmazonFresh even offers predawn delivery for orders placed by midnight. So after you've ordered the groceries, you can sleep and cuddle your amazing fickle little bundle of joy knowing you've crossed one chore off the list!
Beth Herrild is a mom, coach and author of the book Comfortable Chaos: Forget Balance and Make Career and Family Choices That Work for You.